‘Come On Over’: Shania Twain Goes Global From This Moment On
When a Canadian star arrived at her late 1997 album release, she knew it represented the moment of truth to turn her huge North American success into a truly global phenomenon. She was to realize that dream in the most spectacular fashion: soon after the November 4th appearance of Come On Over, the whole world would know Eileen Regina Edwards as Shania Twain.
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The artist born in Windsor, Ontario, who grew up some 650 miles north in Timmins, had made her album debut with a self-titled 1993 set that went largely unnoticed until her breakthrough. But 1995’s The Woman In Me was a different story: quadruple platinum by the end of the year, 12 times by 2000 and, as would become Twain’s habit, crammed with more signature songs than many a greatest hits collection, from “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” to “Any Man of Mine” and the title track to “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!”
Come On Over, again produced by Shania’s then-husband and co-writer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, was introduced in September 1997 by “Love Gets Me Every Time.” It became a country No.1 in both the US and Canada, fueled in part by a performance at the 31st annual CMA Awards. Then, alongside the album, came “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You),” which captured the essence of, yes, the woman in her: sassy, flirtatious, chatty, but definitely not to be messed with. The outline of the strong, inspirational female figurehead was being drawn in indelible ink.
On its 20th anniversary in 2017, Billboard described Come On Over as a “genre-bending album that pushed boundaries in both a musical and visual sense, with some of its music videos becoming as instantly iconic as the hits they accompanied…[it] was such a brilliant fusion of country, pop and rock that it quickly solidified Twain’s legacy, with 11 of the 16 songs hitting the top 30 on the Hot Country Songs chart (8 of which were in the Top 10, including three No. 1s).”
The album did indeed take off like a rocket in the US, with double platinum certification by Christmas. Then came the new year of 1998 and a new challenge: breaking Europe. When Twain visited London, this writer spoke to her for her first UK “broadsheet” interview, with The Times, and found her in determined mood.
“I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t get kicked off in Europe to some degree with this album,” she said, adding wisely: “But coming here, I didn’t expect people just to pick up on it and take it away. You have to earn people’s respect.”
The songwriting rules that had already served her well were plainly laid out: keep the lyrics conversational, the image approachable yet glamorous, and don’t ever be penned in by supposed genre demands. With country music still perceived as more of a specialist taste in the UK and Europe, long before it kicked down the doors to mainstream acceptance, Come On Over was released in an “international” version that turned down the twang and turned up the pop. Twain was entirely unfazed.
“Even as it is originally, the album isn’t country sounding, so the point wasn’t really to decountrify the album,” she noted. “A lot of my listeners are crossover listeners. In their CD collection there might be me, there might be Alanis Morissette, Smashing Pumpkins, Mariah Carey…so many listeners are like myself, they listen to a bit of everything.”
It took time, but new fans arrived in droves. “You’re Still The One” was released as the first international single, coinciding with its emergence as the third back home, where it went to No.2 on the Hot 100 and went on to win two Grammys. In the UK, it entered the chart in late February and climbed to No.10. Australian admirers took it all the way to No.1 there.
Come On Over entered the UK charts at a respectable No.15 for the chart week of March, but that was its only week in the Top 20, until the album grew the most extraordinarily long tail. As smash hits from the set rolled off the tongue, the game-changing one-two punch was the ballad “From This Moment On” and the feisty, girl-powerful “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” The album roared back to life in the UK, racing 29-3 in early June 1999, the first of an incredible 51 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 that included 11, in three separate runs, at No.1.
Across the Atlantic, the precious metal piled up: seven-times platinum by the end of 1998, 12-times by the close of ’99 and, dizzyingly, 20 by 2004. The Woman In Me was keeping up, too, hitting 11 million by the end of 1998. Twain practically owned Billboard’s new diamond certification for the elite ten-million club. ‘Come On Over’ was certified double diamond in Canada and remained in the top 30 album charts for over four years.
Back in the London interview, she explained her very deliberate approach to making Come On Over. “It happened over a very long period of time,” she said. “My intentions all along were to make a better album. I had a much better idea of what the fans so far, who had bought [The Woman In Me] were interested in and what they liked best, and it was the more progressive stuff, so I figured I should just make a more progressive album.
“So this whole album is more in your face lyrically,” Twain continued. “It’s not crude or anything like that, it’s a very optimistic woman’s point of view. It’s not an angry feminist/victim kind of point of view. There’s a lot of subject matter that I shed some comic relief on.
“Some people may think I make light of the subjects because of the way I talk about things. The whole point behind songwriting for me is to entertain people, I’m not trying to lay heavy loads on people when they’re listening. I try to make things conversational, and it’s not that easy, it’s easier to rhyme and make things sound poetic.” Twain’s country-pop poetry was conquering the world.